Kristi Miller Saunders
Kristi Miller-Saunders, with Fisheries and Oceans Canada Pacific Biological Station, is leading genomic research for the initiative.
Photo by Nik West

In 2013, the Pacific Salmon Foundation embarked on a remarkable partnership with Genome BC and Fisheries and Oceans Canada.  This partnership called the Strategic Salmon Health Initiative was started for a variety of reasons, the primary one being the high mortality rate of juvenile salmon during their early ocean migration. There is a strong belief within the scientific community that infectious disease may be a significant factor in this mortality, but not enough is known about what disease agents might affect Pacific salmon in their natural habitats. What is known comes almost exclusively from observations of cultured fish (both in hatcheries and aquaculture).

The initiative intends to clarify the presence and/or absence of microbes in Pacific salmon. Recently, as part of the SSHI, something was discovered in the tissues of some aquaculture salmon that were being sampled. It was an outbreak of Heart and Skeletal Muscle Inflamation (or HSMI) in fish from one farm. The lesions in the fish are the same as those previously identified by the same histopathologist in farm audit samples collected from  farms during 2011-2013. The HSMI finding was formally reported to the industry and Fisheries and Oceans Canada as per the scientific protocol for the project and announced by Fisheries and Oceans Canada <click here for the release>. As HSMI is not an OIE reportable disease, it was not reported to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. A slide presentation on the HSMI finding can be viewed here.

The initiative is a four-phased program to discover the microbes present in Pacific salmon that may reduce the productivity of our Pacific salmon. The initiative reached a milestone in July of 2015, when the Phase 2a platform evaluation was reviewed by the National Canadian Science Advisory Secretariat (CSAS), which coordinates the peer review of scientific issues for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO).

Their review was very positive and approved the use of the technology platform for Phase 2b of the project. The details of the review can be found at: http://www.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/csas-sccs/publications/sar-as/2015/2015_039-eng.html. A one-pager summarizing the findings can be downloaded here.

 

For questions about the project contact Michael Meneer at mmeneer@psf.ca or 604-664-7664

Learn more about the project and Genome BC http://www.genomebc.ca/index.php?cID=1235

Read the press release 

Read the backgrounder